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02 October 2023

Pakistan drone victims seek CIA arrest


Relatives of victims of a covert US drone war against Al-Qaeda in Pakistan on Monday filed a complaint with police in the capital, seeking the arrest of a now retired CIA official, their lawyer said.

"We have lodged the complaint for (issuance) of international arrest warrants for John A. Rizzo, a CIA official," over the killings of civilians, Mirza Shahzad Akbar told reporters at a press conference.

The drone war, targeting Taliban and Al-Qaeda commanders in Pakistan's tribal badlands, is hugely unpopular among a public opposed to the government's alliance with Washington and sensitive to perceived violations of sovereignty.

The document called on Interpol and the United States to enforce an arrest warrant against Rizzo, whom it says was until recently general counsel to the CIA and claims "the accused can be tried in Islamabad".

It accused Rizzo of conspiracy to wage a war of aggression, to commit murder and various other crimes, including crimes against humanity.

"Rizzo worked with the agency as one of their legal counsels from 1970s and was in that position at the time of the initial attacks on Pakistan sovereign territory (in 2004)," it said.

"At CIA, one of his roles was to approve a list of persons to be killed every month in Pakistan by CIA using unmanned aerial vehicles and he had already confessed of his crime publicly," it added.

Akbar has been something of a legal campaigner in Pakistan against the CIA. He also represents a tribesman seeking $500 million in compensation from the CIA after his son and brother were killed by a drone.

Akbar said he held out little hope that Pakistani authorities would cooperate with an arrest warrant, suspecting "they have fully connived with the US," in reference to US leaked cables that pointed to cooperation on drones.

Karim Khan, who said he lost his 16 year-old son and a younger brother, said the drone strikes were impossible to justify.

"Those who are carrying out these attacks are enemies of Islam and humanity as they are killing innocent men, women and children," he said.

Most US drone strikes are focused in North Waziristan, the country's most notorious Afghan Taliban and Al-Qaeda bastion, where the United States has long called on Pakistan to launch a ground offensive.

More than 20 US drone strikes have been reported in Pakistan since the US Navy SEALs killed Saudi terror mastermind Osama bin Laden on May 2.

Relations between Pakistan and the United States deteriorated sharply since the bin Laden raid in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad.